Kena: Bridge of Spirits review-in-progress — a magical adventure with action
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I like Pixar movies. I like action-adventure games. I like Kena: Bridge of Spirits!
Kena is out now (well, maybe give it a few hours if you’re reading this right when I publish it). This indie title is available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC. I played on PS5.
I haven’t beaten Kena yet, so this isn’t my full review. But I’ve been enjoying this magical, beautiful adventure so far.
This is an action-adventure game in the Zelda and Beyond Good & Evil mold. Your experience has a mix of combat of environmental puzzle-solving. Now, as an indie game, you might expect Kena to feature some modest production values, but developer Ember Labs is somehow delivering something that looks the part of a big-budget, triple-A game. Kena is like a computer animated film in the Pixar or DreamWorks style, featuring a lush, magical forest to explore and a likable, emotive cast of characters.
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You can tell you’re going to like Kena’s visuals just by watching a trailer, but its combat also stands out. It’s nothing flashy. You have a staff that you can use for melee attacks or ranged, bow-like projectiles. You have a dodge, a counter, all the typical stuff. It just all has a nice flow to it. Most encounters, especially boss fights, require you to use your full kit. One memorable boss had a lantern hanging from his neck which I could shoot with the bow. This would stun the boss. Then I can go in for some melee hits, dodge roll out of the way, and get ready to evade or counter his next attack.
Then you have the rot, probably Kena’s most interesting mechanic. You have an army of these little forest spirits, the previously-mentioned rot, that you can order around the world to solve puzzles, a bit like Pikmin. So you may find a block somewhere, then you can have the rot move it so it can help you access a new area.
You can also use the rot in combat. As you land blows, you build up a “courage” meter. You can use this to direct the rot to use different abilities, like a homing ranged attack. You can also have them activate healing flowers or make them distract an enemy. Building up the courage meter and figuring out how to spend it adds some nice complexity to each fight.
Explore and reward
You can also find more rot to join your army with a little exploration. Again, typical for the genre, but it’s nice to have the game reward you for looking beyond the intended path. You can also discover hats for the rot and earn some points that you can spend on character upgrades
So, yeah. So far, so good. I do have some concerns. As pretty as Kena’s magical forest is, it’s beginning to feel a little monotonous. I could use a bit more scenic variety, especially some indoor areas. I’ve been in a few caves, and they’re great. They’re eerie, atmospheric, and mystical. I want more caves!
And maybe I’ll get them. I’ll just have to play the rest of the game. And when I do, I’ll let you know what I think.
Kena: Bridge of Spirits is out now for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC. The developer gave GamesBeat a PS5 code for this review.
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